There could be a fair degree of change on the way in the next few months for members of the Thompson homeless community.
Stakeholders from Project Northern Doorway have not only established a "Housing First" model in dealing with social issues in the homeless community such as addictions and alcoholism, but have narrowed down a list of the most at-risk members of the community.
"We've identified a group of people who are our top priority, and narrowed down who are the number one consumers of all the services that we're providing," said John Donovan from Addictions Foundation Manitoba (AFM) and co-chair of the Project Northern Doorway board.
The services that Donovan was referring to are the Thompson Homeless Shelter, also known as the Nanatowiho Wikamik Homeless Shelter, Thompson Fire and Emergency Services, Thompson General Hospital, Thompson psychiatric care, AFM, and those detained under the provincial Intoxicated Persons Detention Act (IPDA).
Through a pooling of resources and some number crunching, it was found that 28 individuals commonly make up the top 20 for all of the services used.
"If we're going to pick a focus group, we're going to say to each of the six organizations that provide services, give us your top 20 and we'll sit down and look at who is common to these lists on three or more of those top 20s," said Donovan, "we took the people who are on three or more of those lists and came up with 28 people."
Since identifying their focus group, Project Northern Doorway has reached out to these individuals to get consent to work with them as a priority based on their unique needs. The next step to be taken Donovan says, is to acquire funding and housing.
Housing Manitoba's Harold Smith attended the last Project Northern Doorway stakeholders meeting on Aug. 21, and explained that at a minimum, they would need to acquire two properties with a dozen units each in order to fill the need for the number of people being focused on.
Donovan says that the process is underway at present for the acquisition of two properties, and that a few properties are already being looked at, which would be provided by Manitoba Housing.
A proposal for a grant has been made to the federal government's Homeless Partnering Strategy; funding would be allocated to three facets of the housing being provided.
One aspect would be to have someone who would live in and work in the facilities (a house mother as Donovan puts it), second is someone to work exclusively with the tenants and helping them with their day-to-day issues like meeting with landlords, this person would be the first level of personal contact. The third item put in for is a damage deposit, so that if anything were to happen at one of the facilities, Project Northern Doorway would repair it immediately.
A project of this magnitude undeniably costs a great deal of money and takes a wide collection of funding sources; the money that could potentially be saved however is what makes this initiative attractive.
Last year, for the six services mentioned above, minus AFM and the psychiatric care, the targeted 28 people cost those services around $300,000. In total for the entire city of Thompson, those services cost close to $1 million. In other words, 28 people were responsible for nearly 30 per cent of the operating costs of those services.
The hope is that providing these targeted individuals with a place to live, the need for these services among them will be greatly reduced.
Housing First as a model does not necessarily indicate a steps program, and Donovan says that pressure will not be put on anyone to seek counselling, but rather that the tangibility of a home will give those in need a sense of personal value and want to work to improve themselves.
"Having a home makes an immediate difference, it adds to a person's personal value, that's the theory behind Housing First and it's an international model," said Donovan, "it makes a person feel better about themselves and that's the first step in making a change."